Milwaukee is the U.S. launching spot for a worldwide anti-hatred campaign.
For the last couple of years, a worldwide campaign spearheaded by the U.S. State Department has enlisted young people in the effort to reducing hatred.
The Hours Against Hate campaign seeks donations of time to bridge gaps between people.
The project was co-founded by two diplomats – Farah Pandith, who is the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, and Hannah Rosenthal, who was then the special envoy to combat anti-Semitism.
"At the heart of the campaign is, can you give one hour or more of your time to someone who doesn't look like you, pray like you, live like you or love like you?" Pandith says. "We know that there are many ways that you can do that."
They are now taking the project to the domestic front. The first Hours Against Hate project in the United States launched in Milwaukee last night.
The pair created the project in response to a group of young people who called the diplomats out for, despite all their talk, not issuing a call to action against hate.
"What we’re trying to do here is trying to say to young people, 'You have told us that you want to build a planet that is more compassionate, that has more dignity for all, that is based on – as President Obama would say – mutual respect.' How do you do that?" Pandith says.
So she and Rosenthal asked the young people to think creatively about how to take a stand, volunteer an hour, and register it on Facebook. The project went viral internationally in 2011.
Rosenthal says part of the campaign's appeal is the ability to address hate in a fairly neutral way - and without just making a donation.
"The potency of why this campaign caught on was a combination of the technology and people knowing how to use it and a combination of young people absolutely having time on their hands and maybe not disposable income, but part of it I believe is we named the fundamental issue, which is hatred," says Rosenthal, who is now President and CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
While the campaign may have originated with two diplomats working with specific religious communities, Pandith says hatred takes on many forms - be it bullying in the United States or "deep and radical" nativist attitudes against immigrants in Europe.
"It is really about taking a look at where we are as humans today, seeing the number of hate crimes around the world, understanding the bigotry and the discrimination that's taking place all over the world," she says.
While the message is important, Rosenthal says the messenger can "amplify and improve its impact." She and Pandith also hope that by engaging young people, they can help stem a rise in global hate acts.
"When we are sitting on the planet in 2013, and you are seeing in Europe the number of Holocaust deniers increase at the same time that people who have survived the Holocaust are declining, we have a crisis on our hands," Pandith says.
In response to the project's launch in Milwaukee, Mayor Tom Barrett also declared yesterday “Hours Against Hate Day."
You can watch a video from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on "Hours Against Hate" below.